‘The buck stops with the Chair’ – so said Heidi to me on several occasions in the course of her chairmanship. There was so much that our recent Chair had to deal with in the course of her chairmanship. You plan your conferences, you get to know your hard-working council and staff, and as many of the membership as you have been able to – travelling around the Area Days and regions of the UK – but you know the curve balls are likely. Nevertheless, Heidi had more of those than anyone might reasonably have expected. There were financial crises, the constitutional realignment of becoming a CIO, management issues, staff to appoint, volunteers to find, deaths of much regarded members and colleagues – including Tina Ruta last year and Paul Deegan this. On top of this, there was the small matter of mounting successful but financially risky conferences – enough to attract members, provide interesting and up to the minute topics and find presenters who would donate their time and expertise.
And then there was Eurovox 2020. Three years in the planning, some 75 speakers from across the globe, 12 young singers from across Europe and a wonderful programme of recitals, classes, research and even a ceilidh – all gone as Covid 19 swept in and locked down not just global economies and life as we knew it, but particularly silencing singing and the performing arts. No AOTOS Chair deserved this much. That Heidi managed to continue with indefatigable energy, patience, graciousness and tenacity tells you much about her. Elderly and out-of-sight members were remembered, special birthdays celebrated and individual members were assisted behind the scenes where needed. Oh yes – and by the way, she has a husband and son, is an ABRSM examiner and trainer, and has a full-time job running a large singing department, being also Deputy Head of Music at one of our foremost girls’ schools. AOTOS owes more to Heidi Pegler over many years of service and especially in the last two than there is room to write. These are very big shoes to fill. She has handed over an association that is now much better run but in this crisis has also discovered it’s heart and strength – a community and network of professionals who care about what they do and support one another. It will be a great privilege to continue in her footsteps and I feel honoured to have been given the chance to try by our super council. Thank you, Heidi.